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Taking Care of Business
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Old August 11th, 2005, 12:15 PM   #1
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Fair payment for original music

Hey all,

I have a composer interested in creating a soundscape for a short project of mine. He's established and seemingly successful with a strong cult following, but isn't a household name. When I asked how much he charges, he said something along the lines of "make me an offer".

What is the going rate for people in the experienced but unknown category?

Thanks!
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Old August 11th, 2005, 02:15 PM   #2
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You didn't mention what type of budget you have to work with. That is going to be a key factor. You also noted that he was interested in doing the soundscape. Does this mean he is interested in it as a job or interested artistically? If he's enthusiastic about the work itself, you can probably charge less. If you're the one after him, however, be prepared to pay more. The final consideration, and an important one, is how long/involved will the soundscape be? This is crucial. Get back with answers and I'll give you my opinion.
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Old August 11th, 2005, 02:42 PM   #3
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Okay, this is where the squirming starts.

The project is literally out of pocket (and home equity loan), so my total available budget is $10,000, unless I want to really upset my wife. The soundscape is of higher import to me than the visual effects. It needs to look good, but the actual effects could be toned down. It still doesn't leave much, after the rest of the production expenses are added up. As the soundscape will be done after the project wraps, I'm not sure how much will be left after those unforseen costs are added into the mix.

He's more interested in creating the entire soundscape than just a few individual movements. It's slated to run 30 mins, so there would be texture over the entire film. Some of it would be really simple, other stuff would be pretty dense. A few movements would be faster for him to bang out than the entire thing, but he wants the cohesiveness of the project in it's entirety.

Honestly, I'm not sure who wants this more. Probably me, since a lot of the tones of the film are based on previous work of the composer, but he seemed really fascinated with the script and asked a lot of questions about texture, so I could tell that he was putting a lot of thought into it.

When I asked how much he charges for this kind of work, he asked me how much I want to spend. I suppose this is a reasonable response, as he can calculate what he can do for that amount of money, but I have a lot of respect for the composer and don't want to insult him with "Can you do 30 minutes of sound for $2000?" if it is dramatically below what he typically collects. Even if he really is prepared to essentially throw away his income to do the project, I'm concerned that there will be hard feelings as we get into the inevitable revisions and working through any artistic disagreements. I also want to be able to work with him again in the future when there is a more significant budget to work with and don't want to jeopardize that opportunity.
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Old August 11th, 2005, 02:52 PM   #4
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...don't want to insult him with "Can you do 30 minutes of sound for $2000?"

It in no way insults him to say, "I have $2000 to spend, and I'd love to work with you, but I don't know if that will do it." He know's you have a budget, and he knows what he wants to do. It never hurts to ask.

If he says no, you can query him on what it would take and figure out whether it's worth it for you.

If he says yes, you can kick yourself for not saying $1500. :).
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Old August 11th, 2005, 02:55 PM   #5
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When I find myself in this sort of position, I try to be as honest and forthright as possible.

You COULD hunt and peck your way through the royalty free music sites, and find and download pieces that MIGHT work. Price ranges all over from ten dollars for a ten second 'stinger' to a couple of hundred for a three minute piece. Point is, to "fill" thirty minutes you're looking at a couple of grand at best.

Do you HAVE that? If so, you have two choices. Buy online, hoping to find something that comes close to what you want.

Or realize that the value of a custom scored movement is more than you can afford.

Approach him honestly, and openly.

"Look John, I realize I can't afford the going rate for a custom designed score. The best I could hope to do, is spend the XXX dollars I have, digging through the royalty free sites and buying up what I can. What I can offer you is the XXX money I have, and the chance to work on a challenging project that we can both be proud of, and will hopefully generate income and work in the future for both of us. What do you say?"

All he can do is say no thanks. Then you start looking at RF stuff.
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Old August 11th, 2005, 06:50 PM   #6
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Brandt, the first rule of bargaining is that the first person to say a number loses.
Do not offer him anything. Simply tell him you need a ballpark quote from him to finish working out your budget. If it is too high, come back a day later and tell him the budget can only afford $XXXX.
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Old August 26th, 2005, 09:56 AM   #7
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Thanks for the input guys.

Dylan, your approach best worked for my situation. The gap between what the composer wanted and what I could afford was significant, so we are going to make another go at a future project.

He may supply the music for the title sequence, though, so all is not lost!

Thanks,
Brandt
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Old August 26th, 2005, 03:46 PM   #8
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I have a composer I work with that is excellent and quite reasonable, he is pretty busy (with projects from me =o) for the next 5 weeks but I can hook him up with you if interested.



ash =o)
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Old August 27th, 2005, 05:36 PM   #9
 
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Brandt, check this out: http://www.versusmedia.com/

Jay
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